LAS VEGAS - The prefight lead up for Donald Cerrone and Nate Diaz was as nasty as any this year in the UFC. When they finished crushing each in the cage tonight for 15 minutes, a strange thing happened, the bitter enemies hugged, said sorry and patted each other on the back.
Diaz won the fight pretty convincingly, but his face still showed wear from the battle. Cerrone's face was extremely swollen, but he seemed almost thrilled about what he'd just experienced.
"It's awesome. That's what I like to do. That's what makes fights," said Cerrone, who saw a six-fight win streak snapped "That to me was a good time. That was fun. I mean standing there and throwing, that's what everyone likes to see."
Cerrone had genuine dislike for Diaz before the fight. After 15 minutes in the Octagon, he couldn't help but admire him.
"He stood there and went toe-to-toe. There's some respect in that," Cerrone said. [After the fight] I looked him in the eyes and said 'god [expletive], you're a tough SOB.'"
Diaz and his brother Nick often complain that fight game is filled with wrestlers, who try to win fights on points. On this night, Cerrone was getting battered but never tried to take the fight to the ground.
"I knew he was tough and he was going stand there and keep fighting," Diaz said during the postfight press conference. "[...] I don't like getting hit, but that's just what happens. I'm there to fight and if you're not taking me out, keep trying."
It wasn't all nice in there. During the prefight staredown in the middle of the cage, Cerrone gave Diaz the middle finger and Diaz returned the favor with a double-bird before the third started. They took it out on each by landing a combined 335 shots. According to FightMetric, Diaz doled out most of the punishment by landing 238 at a 66-percent clip.
Their boss, Dana White rewarded them with the Fight of the Night bonus.
"They're nasty man. These guys are fighters. You talk about the word fighter and what it means to be a fighter ... these two guys sitting up here are it," White said during the postfight press conference. "They went out there and proved that tonight."
Diaz started the prefight bad blood in October before UFC 137. Cerrone tried to shake his hand during a workout session. Diaz reacted by slapping his hand away and cursing at him.
Cerrone told the story often in the lead up to this fight which juiced up Diaz even more. On Thursday during the prefight press conference, Diaz further fanned the flames by knocking Cerrone's hat from his head. It all led to Cerrone fighting with too much bravado and not enough strategy.
"I just wanted to stand. I just wanted to play. I got outboxed and I talked a lot of [expletive]," said Cerrone explaining why he never tried to change the style of the fight. "He got in my [expletive] head. He was good. He brought the fight to me. All the [expletive] I talked and he made me eat my words, didn't he?"